BY ELENA VALDEZ
The federal government of the United States is divided into many departments, a large number of which are concerned with the preservation and protection of the natural environment. The most recent government shutdown has not only put the lives of humans at stake, but has placed wildlife and plant life in danger, as well.
There are no staffers to clean the parks’ human accommodations, such as toilets and garbage cans and this has led to the environments being polluted with excess waste. The lack of personnel monitoring the national parks across the U.S. is a costly lack of maintenance. Although this behavior occurs regardless of the government shutdown, now there are no park rangers to enforce the rules and educate the public, who will continue to do what they are doing.
In California’s Joshua Tree National Park, there has been an influx of people setting up illegal campsites and subsequently, destroying their surroundings. These illegal campsites are only accessible via illegal pathways, which are not pre-paved. National park officials reported the use of vehicles to create roads and walkways, which ultimately destroyed the endangered Joshua trees in the process.
If all national parks are indefinitely opened to the public and the vandalization continues, there will no longer be an appeal to see all of the vast forests and breathtaking rivers because they will cease to exist.
Along with the destruction of the trees, there is a destruction of government property, which is a federal crime punishable by up to $500 in fines. In an attempt to stop this, law enforcement officers have been stationed at the park to catch and prosecute violators of the park’s rules. This diverts law enforcement from focusing on other aspects of their job, such as patrolling streets and handling current cases.
The land is not the only environment being sabotaged. The seas are suffering as well. Marine rescue programs, such as those to used to free animals from nets and other water pollution, have also been shut down.
Government employees aren’t getting paid and working now is a fruitless endeavor, as it brings home no money. Federal employees can not support themselves and their families due to the ongoing government shutdown— the longest government shutdown in modern U.S. history.
More minor offenses, such as walking one’s dog where they’re not supposed to, can even have an effect on the park’s natural state. Dogs’ paws can easily damage vital plant life. If one component of an ecosystem suffers, all components feel its effects.
Humans seem more concerned with the prospects of mankind than the environment around them, but the lack of respect presented toward the environment following the government shutdown will only come back to haunt what seems to be most important right now: money.
Money-making moguls have seemed to have forgotten their place in the natural order.
Many small businesses and large travel corporations rely on tourism to make ends meet. If all national parks are indefinitely opened to the public and the vandalization continues, there will no longer be an appeal to see all of the vast forests and breathtaking rivers because they will cease to exist.
Damage does not occur instantaneously with such large landscapes, however, repeated offenses will inevitably build up and devastate these parks. Trash, composed of non-biodegradable plastics and styrofoams, will be left on the earth’s surface for thousands of years before they finally deteriorate. During the process of decomposition, plastics release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, such as Bisphenol A. These dangerous chemicals can damage the earth’s various ecosystems and habitats in a truly detrimental fashion that could mar them for years to come.
Regulations are not being enforced and no matter how much one might love their job, if there is no money there is no point in working. Earth’s environment has seen a significant change in recent years as deforestation and vandalism run rampant in the 21st century. Money-making moguls have seemed to have forgotten their place in the natural order.
Regardless of the happenings on Capitol Hill, Earth is our home, and we should care for it even when there is no ranger to guide us. Our planet is in a fragile state and if we do not continue to protect it, it will crumble
Photo by Genna Nordling